How do I transition to a virtual conference? Your conference management software questions answered.

As the old adage goes: ‘the show must go on’, and though the Covid-19 crisis has shut down borders and left most of us locked in our homes, conference organisers have adapted. Over the coming months several of our clients’ conferences that were originally planned to be hosted on location, instead of being postponed or cancelled, are transitioning to virtual conferences, hosted online.

This is not surprising, virtual conferences have a number of advantages that location-based conferences don’t; they’re cheaper as transport and location costs are avoided, they are easier to arrange, and you’re less likely to have guests or speakers cancel given all they need to attend is a webcam and stable connection.

Over the last few weeks, many of our clients who have conferences that were due to take place in the next six months have been in touch, asking how they can transition. We’re only too happy to help, and have included the three most frequently asked questions, and responses.

I’m on a budget and I want to make it simple - what do I need in terms of software?

There are many different platforms that will handle anything from delegate registration to online networking and everything in between, but there are two fundamentally key requirements - an online program or schedule, and video / online conference software.

The online program part is simple. Our Conference Program and Advanced Conference Program, available with our Gold and Platinum Packages allow you to create an impressive program that is fully integrated with your submissions. The programs can incorporate a range of multimedia, and are compatible with PC, Mac, tablets and phones. You can simply add links to sessions in the program to either live webinars in Zoom, or pre-recorded presentations. Users can then watch live, or later, in their own time.

Zoom is the go-to video conferencing software at the moment and is being utilised as a means of keeping in contact with friends and family during lockdown and has been recently used for everything from online pubs, to quizzes. No surprise there, as it is one of the simplest and most cost-effective video conferencing systems on the market. Indeed, their free version may have all the features you require, including breakout rooms and interactivity such as polls, and chat although the limit of 100 participants and maximum 40 minute time slot might encourage you to consider upgrading to the Pro, with a maximum 24 hour slot. Although the limit on this package is still 100 participants, there are bolt ons for large meetings, should you need them.Take a look at their pricing plans for more information.

I have limited time and resources and don’t have the time to spend learning new software and skills. How long will it take?

Zoom has a huge library of tutorials that cover all you will need to know to help you set up your webinars. Try Scheduling a webinar to get started, and maybe move on to Breakout rooms when you have had a bit of practice. Getting to grips with Zoom doesn’t take long, which is probably why it seems to have monopolised the current demand for video-conferencing software,

If you have already gone through the abstract submission process, it will just be a case of upgrading to the Gold or Platinum Package, to add the Conference Program, or Advanced Program to your set up. You simply create sessions, incorporate your abstracts and links, then publish instantly. It’s intuitive and easy-to-use, and unlike many software providers, we offer free one-to-one tutorials to get you started.

Is it best to show pre-recorded presentations, or live ones?

Primarily as a contingency for unstable internet connections, it is advisable to ask your speakers to pre-record their presentations. You also have to bear in mind that live presentations are also likely to suffer issues such as timing, and technical difficulties. Not everyone is a natural TED Talker, and giving presenters the chance to record their presentations could allow for more focused and polished presentations.

For many people, live sessions have more impact and the audience can get involved through interactive features such as instant polls, questions and chats. Sessions can be broadcast live through the Zoom webinar feature, which will enable chairs or presenters to share their screens from their own locations, and enable interactive features, should they wish.

Get in touch if you have any questions regarding our conference management software.